Striving for what?

Right now I am participating in the Fall 30-Day Challenge at The SweatBox. I (try to) do yoga every day for 30 days. Some days I do Bikram, other days Vinyasa, and other days Yin. Some days I do both. I'm noticing is that my mental approach to my practice is changing. I enjoy each class I take and feel grateful to be able to practice yoga of any kind whenever I step into the studio, but I'm aware that how I go into my practice has changed.

My first committed practice, the one I clung to and did religiously for 20 years, before stepping into other styles is Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga appealed to me I think because of my competitive nature. I swam competitively for almost fifteen years and I grew up in a fiercely competitive house with my two sisters, one twin and one 21-months younger. It seemed we were always striving to be seen and heard by our parents in some way. The repetition of Bikram practice comforted me. I could get better at all of these postures, notice my progress, watch my evolution really clearly. The sameness of the series also mentally and emotionally comforted me. I didn't have to worry about being "good" or "proficient" at these postures; I only had to focus on working hard to get better at them.

Then I started practicing more Vinyasa Yoga and the challenge of it also fed my competitive inclinations. I had the strength to do this practice, and I could see how I'd get better if I worked harder. I strived for that, worked hard, and it has been incredibly fulfilling and satisfying.

And then I started doing Yin Yoga. At first it was confusing. Where is the battle? What I am I working towards? Pushing against? That piece was missing, yet I still felt fed by the practice. The challenge was there but the striving was not. It became clear to me when I went to Canada to train more extensively in the foundations and philosophy of Yin Yoga;  the difference was the intentional absence of pushing, forcing, grinding. This absence, I learned, was the whole premise of Yin Yoga. Once I started teaching Yin and watching my students-- the calm expressions on their faces, their eyelids gently closed, the softness of their fingers and toes as they held different postures-- I could see clearly this difference. There is a whole process going on internally, one that is slowly, quietly feeding each of their bodies and minds in ways that each of them needs.

The striving was gone. In its place was allowing, yielding to the body's position and letting the posture happen. It's beautiful. Sometimes when I'm teaching Yin I feel an emotional welling up. It's nothing in particular, just the idea that the competition is gone. There is no struggle to be seen and heard because all of that is happening inside.

Since I've integrated Yin Yoga into my practice,  I notice the difference in my Bikram and Vinyasa Yoga. I work just as hard, but I am a little more open to "allowing" and listening to my body guide me when I am in triangle or half-moon. An outsider wouldn't notice anything different about my practice. It looks just the same but it feels different. I am calmer, there's less fight, less grind. The striving is gone, and I'm working just as hard.

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